Hauschka - Room to Expand [Deluxe Edition]

by Rob Taylor Rating:7 Release Date:2016-07-04
Volker Bertelmann, under the pseudonym, Hauschka produces miniatures pieces using prepared piano. Inspired by John Cage, but not afraid of romanticism, so the texturing reminds a lot of Debussy or Erik Satie. Mimimalism being as it is, can occasionally descend into tedious repetition but Bertelmann struck a pretty good balance of composition, instrumental layering and rhythm on 2006’s Room to Expand, here re-released with six additional tracks in deluxe form.
 
Prepared piano involves altering the natural tone of acoustic piano by placing objects on top of, or beneath the strings. By multi-tracking and manipulating the timbre of the instrument, compositions using piano alone can appear as if played by ensemble. Sometimes manipulating strings can remove all their natural sound, such as where a string is effectively disabled, removing all vibration and consequently, pitch. Other times, things such as foil can be placed under a string to change the quality of the sound.
 
Bertelmann adds the natural tones of cello and acoustic guitar, with the pulse undertaken either by hand percussion or the metronomy of an analogue clock, such as on the tracks 'La Dilletante' and 'Slow Motion', one of the tracks included on the expanded edition. I guess Hauschka is essentially music for people who have the stomach and patience for classical mimimalism.
 
Variations heard throughout Room to Expand are often subtle, and brought about by layering of the various piano components. The net effect is a very dense and occasionally romantic set of miniatures, something that would suit a late-night session with the headphones, somewhere and someplace complimentary in mood. 
 
Of the additional tracks for the deluxe edition, 'Run Run' impressively pits the piano preparations against one another, like duelling pianos trying to keep pace with that analogue clock I mentioned earlier. On other tracks, such as 'Belgrade', Bertelmann’s use of space with intermittent horn is something akin to Miles Davis’s experiments in the 1970s. 
 
The only criticism I have of Room to Expand, as a whole, is that the landscape doesn't change that much. There's a lot of monochrome, so when a track like ‘Zoovietel’ lathers the romanticism on thick, it can’t shift the impressions that came before it.

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